Late Medieval Icelandic Murderer (1678 AD) ….. 7.26 – KOV-A2  Culture: Icelandic Viking


The Icelandic individuals from the Viking Age were uncovered between 1900 and 1996 and are stored at the National Museum of Iceland. They represent the first few generations after the settlement of Iceland (870-930 AD) based on context and radiocarbon dating. The Norse religion started being replaced by Christianity around 1000 AD which led to visible changes in burial customs. Old Norse customs would have the body lying in a north-south orientation as single inhumations, whereas Christian burials would use coffins in relatively large cemetaries with graves in an east-west orientation. Also Norse graves would typically involve burying goods that would be taken to the afterlife such as weapons, animals, boats, jewelry and household items.

This individual from Kopavogur (KOV) was discovered in 1988. The remains are of Sigurdur Arason, a 26 year old farmer born in 1678 with his skull found buried separately from his body. He was found in the same grave with 44 year old housewife Steinunn Gudmundsdottir born in 1664. Both were sentenced to death by the Kopavogs Parliament on 14. November 1704 for the murder of Steinunn’s husband Saemundur Thorarinsson. Following the verdict, Sigurdur was beheaded with his impaled head publicly exhibited whereas Steinunn was drowned in the Kopavogur Medical Center. These were the last executions of the Kopavogs Parliament. Their remains were buried in an unconsecrated ground at a site called Hjonadysjar.